Consumer Warning: Direct-to-consumer orthodontic products

Orthodontics Australia strongly urges consumers to be wary of the safety risks of cheap, DIY orthodontic products now being offered in Australia. These clear aligner products are sold direct to consumers, meaning there is no formal assessment or in-person consultation by an orthodontist. Similar companies have been operating in the United States for several years and have been heavily criticised by consumers and industry groups for over-promising and under-delivering on treatment results.

Although lower cost and apparent greater convenience may seem appealing compared to traditional orthodontic treatment, you can expect to get what you pay for. This means the final treatment outcome can be poor, and you may then need a specialist orthodontist to fix the resulting problems, at extra cost to you. Consumers also need to be aware that while many of these services claim to utilise the expertise of a trained “dental professional”, this often isn’t the case, or it may be in fact be a dental technician (not an orthodontist) not located in Australia.

As part of this service, consumers typically have their teeth scanned at a retail outlet by a shop assistant, or are mailed a DIY kit to take impressions of their own teeth. The scans or moulds are then used to create a course of clear aligner trays that are sent directly to the consumer to administer themselves. This method doesn’t account for variations in people’s teeth and does not allow for any adjustment to the treatment once the aligners have been sent. In addition, no X-rays are taken to assess the health of the teeth and surrounding bone, so there is no way to determine if the proposed tooth movement is safe or even feasible, or if the tooth roots, gums and bone are healthy enough to tolerate tooth movement.

Undertaking orthodontic treatment without the direct support of a specialist orthodontist and their clinical team can be likened to a DIY home renovation. With the help of certified builders, architects and qualified tradespeople you can feel confident that your home will be built to professional standards and will be safe for your family for years to come. However, when an untrained amateur undertakes a DIY home renovation in an attempt to save money, the quality cannot be assured, corners will be cut and there are often mistakes and complications throughout the process.

Consumers are often unaware of the potential risks of improperly applied orthodontics and are unable to tell when something is going wrong until it is too late. By the time they realise that there has been an error, their teeth and gums may be damaged, leading to even more costly remedial orthodontic procedures and in some cases, corrective surgery.

Teeth straightening is a complex medical procedure, and requires a proper pre-treatment assessment and ongoing supervision, just like any other healthcare procedure. Orthodontics Australia recommends consulting a specialist orthodontist for a comprehensive assessment before commencing any form of orthodontic treatment, no matter how simple it may seem. They will be able to provide you with a detailed overview of all feasible treatment options, including limited treatment options for the budget-conscious, to ensure safe and professional treatment.

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